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Health promotion entails enhancing access to health services by controlling the determinants of health. From the readings assigned this week, it is evident that stigma has resulted in health inequalities in mental health care (Hatzenbuehler, Phelan, & Link, 2013). This issue has created significant barriers for nurses, healthcare assistants, and Canadian residents. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the issues, challenges, and nurses’ role in reducing health care barriers attributed to stigmatization.
The most important facet is minimizing health disparities and changing their determinants (Raphael, 2012). Canadians experience great health discrepancies due to differences in areas of residence, social classes, economic status, gender, and ethnicity (Veenstra & Patterson, 2017). This problem is aggravated in mental health care by stigmatization (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2013). Stigma causes the society to cast aspersions on mentally ill patients, who in turn develop self-hate. Consequently, these patients fail to seek the required medical help, which causes imbalances that influence their overall health standing, life expectancy, disease prevalence, and death rates.
Challenges Faced When Addressing Inequities in Mental Health
Doane and Varcoe (2015) highlight the importance of sound leadership in health care. The major challenge in addressing disparities in psychiatric health is the lack of government support for the overall problem of health imbalances. Canada was among the first nations to recognize the importance of tackling health inequalities. However, it is surprising that the country now trails behind other countries in having health discrepancies in public policy plans (Langille, 2016). Recent administrative policies have expanded the well-known causes of health variations in the population. The Canadian public health centers its efforts on matters that do not help in lowering health disproportions (Raphael, 2015). Additionally, health promotion and population health discussions do not help to eliminate health injustices because policy reports about enhancing social and physical surroundings are given preference. Hence, mentally ill patients continue to suffer in silence.
Nurses’ Role in Reducing Stigma in Mentally Ill Patients
Nurses should spearhead educational anti-stigma intermediations to present accurate information concerning psychiatric disorders. This strategy will rectify half-truths and negative attitudes towards psychiatric patients. For example, education campaigns should counteract the conception that mentally unwell patients are brutal killers by highlighting statistics showing that there is no difference in murder rates between people with psychological disorders and mentally sound people (Griffiths, Carron-Arthur, Parsons, & Reid, 2014).
Nurses should involve themselves in mental health literacy campaigns to encourage individuals and families to seek the required health services (Wei, Hayden, Kutcher, Zygmunt, & McGrath, 2013). This move will enable stigmatized patients with mental illnesses to obtain the needed treatment.
Another useful stratagem is promoting contact with people having stigmatized conditions. Research shows that people without stigmatized disorders do not have meaningful interactions with those who have these complications, which nurtures uneasiness, misgivings, and fear (Cook, Purdie-Vaughns, Meyer, & Busch, 2014). Contact mediations seek to surmount this interactive divide and enable positive dealings and associations between these groups.
Nurses should use legal and policy interventions to direct legislative and policy changes. This endeavor will protect and return stigmatized groups to normal. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has provided adequate research funds to look into the problem of disparities in health (Gahagan, Gray, & Whynacht, 2015). Therefore, nurses should use these funds to carry out health research that examines stigma and imbalances in mental health (Livingston, 2013).
Even as we wait for the government and other bodies to address income disparities, there is a need for nurses to play their role in ensuring that mentally sick patients receive the care they deserve. We hereby invite your contributions to our discussion by posing the following questions:
- What do you think nurses can do to reduce stigmatization in school settings and address the health needs of school-going mentally ill patients?
- How can self-stigmatization in mentally unwell patients be solved?
- What additional strategies can nurses use to reduce stigmatization in mental health?
Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Meyer, I.H., & Busch, J. T. A. (2014). Intervening within and across levels: A multilevel approach to stigma and public health. Social Science and Medicine, 103, 101-109.
Doane, G. H., & Varcoe, C. (2015). How to nurse: Relational inquiry with individuals and families in changing health and health care contexts. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health.
Gahagan, J., Gray, K., & Whynacht, A. (2015). Sex and gender matter in health research: Addressing health inequities in health research reporting. International Journal for Equity in Health, 14(1), 12.
Griffiths, K. M., Carron-Arthur, B., Parsons, A., & Reid, R. (2014). Effectiveness of programs for reducing the stigma associated with mental disorders. A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. World Psychiatry, 13(2), 161-175.
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Phelan, J. C., & Link, B. G. (2013). Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities. American Journal of Public Health, 103(5), 813-821. Web.
Langille, D. (2016). Follow the money: How business and politics define our health. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspective (pp. 470-490). Toronto, Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
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Livingston, J. D. (2013). Mental illness-related structural stigma: The downward spiral of systemic exclusion. Calgary, Alberta: Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Raphael, D. (2012). Implications of inequities in health for health promotion practice. In I. Rootman, S. Dupere, A. Pederson, & M. O’Neill (Eds.), Health promotion in Canada: Critical perspectives on practice (pp. 224-240). Toronto, Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
Raphael, D. (2015). The political economy of health: A research agenda for addressing health inequalities in Canada. Canadian Public Policy, 41(Supplement 2), S17-S25.
Veenstra, G., & Patterson, A. C. (2017). Erratum to: Black–White Health Inequalities in Canada. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 19(5), 1260-1261.
Wei, Y., Hayden, J. A., Kutcher, S., Zygmunt, A., & McGrath, P. (2013). The effectiveness of school mental health literacy programs to address knowledge, attitudes and help-seeking among youth. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 7(2), 109-121.